Stray clashes mar voting to 117 Punjab urban bodies

Barring stray clashes purportedly between workers of the ruling Congress and the Opposition, the voting to 117 Punjab urban local bodies, including eight high-stake municipal corporations, ended largely peacefully on Sunday, officials said.

Officials said the turnout in the state could be over 70 per cent with the women outnumbering men in voting. The poll percentage stood at 55.91 per cent at 2 p.m.

The main contest is among the Congress, the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

The BJP, which is facing anger over the contentious Central farm laws, is also in the fray. It is contesting the polls for the first time in two decades without the Akalis, the oldest NDA ally that has parted ways from it over the farm laws.

AAP activist Manveer was injured in poll violence in Patti town in Tarn Taran district.

“AAP Punjab volunteer Manveer badly injured and fired upon by the Congress worker in both legs and head, in presence of Punjab Police during booth capturing effort by Congress goons. Manveer bravely resisted. Dismiss SSP Tarn Taran,” the AAP’s Punjab unit tweeted.

However, the allegations of AAP were denied by police officials at the spot.

Elsewhere, SAD candidate Parveen Kumar Pinna, who is contesting the Moga Municipal Corporation election as a councillor, was assaulted outside the polling booth.

Angered over the three contentious farm laws, activists of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee stopped BJP booth managers from setting up a help desk at polling booths in Amritsar.

Elsewhere, even as at least seven people were injured as Congress and Akali Dal workers clashed with each other in Ropar municipal council.

Former minister and SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said the SAD had already cautioned the State Election Commission about how democracy had been murdered in the run-up to the elections and how Congress goons were expected to indulge in booth capturing and other unfair practices.

Despite this warning, no concrete steps were taken to control the situation and ensure free and fair elections, he said in a statement.

Local issues of towns and cities and the respective wards dominated the campaigning.

The voting was held for eight municipal corporations — Abohar, Bathinda, Batala, Kapurthala, Mohali, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot and Moga — and 109 municipal councils and municipal panchayats.

The results will be declared on February 17.

According to the State Election Commission, there were 20,49,777 men, 18,65,354 women and 149 transgender voters, totalling 39,15,280 for the civic elections.

A total of 9,222 candidates were in fray for 2,302 wards.

Political observers say these polls just a year ahead of the Assembly elections are a ‘semi-final’ for the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government that is eyeing to repeat its victory against the backdrop of the farm laws that have generated a wave of anger against the BJP.